A Non-Competitive SEO Strategy: Comparison Keywords
by Henry O'Loughlin • 3 minute read • August 11, 2015
People love competition. Maybe it’s just us modern-day folks. Or maybe it’s even just Americans—who knows? My point is that everyone likes to see a winner and a loser every now and then. Since we like it so much, we came up with the word “versus.”
Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed that this “versus” (or “vs.”) obsession applies to Google-searching. People love to compare things in order to find a winner. This particular human interest could be a good opportunity for your website and play a role in the rest of your SEO strategy. Here’s an analysis of what the heck I’m talking about and how it works.
What The Heck Are “Comparison Keywords”?
Think back—have you ever used Google to compare two things? You could’ve been comparing operating systems, wireless providers, or even search engines. Here’s what a few of your search phrases might’ve looked like for these categories, as well as how many average monthly searches these phrases actually get on Google:
- “Mac vs PC”: 18,100 Average Monthly Searches
- “Verizon vs T Mobile”: 1,900 Average Monthly Searches
- “Google vs Bing”: 6,600 Average Monthly Searches (Yes, people actually search this… on Google… every month.)
- "SharePoint alternatives": 1,600 Average Monthly Searches (Here's a Sharepoint alternative example page.)
Since we all do this ourselves as searchers, wouldn’t it be a good opportunity to capitalize on from an SEO perspective?
I’ve started referring to these types of phrases as “comparison keywords,” but you can call them whatever you want. The idea behind this concept is that people are constantly comparing things within your industry, and they are using “vs.” to connect the two phrases. The people who search these phrases could be good web visitors and leads for your company.
So, how could this work for your business?
See Also: How To Use SEMrush For Keyword Research: 18 Strategies To Pursue
Ideas For Comparison Keyword Phrases
First, start by thinking about your personas and how they interact with all aspects of your industry—competitors, trends, publications, etc. Here are some good categories to start with:
Do all of your personas use one of a handful of software systems?
Example: “Hubspot vs Marketo” (480 searches per month)
As a marketing agency, we typically focus on the same buyer personas as the marketing software companies out there. (For example, we target the same people HubSpot targets.) Is there a similar situation in your industry? If you’re in sales consulting, a comparison of CRMs might be a good pick.
Who are your two most well-known competitors?
Example: “Apple TV vs Roku” (9,900 searches per month)
If you’re bold, you can talk about some competitors. Naturally, people who are looking to compare your competitors could be a good fit for your company. I’ll leave the approach up to you.
Do you have a store or ecommerce site where you sell a variety of products? For B2B, are you a reseller or distributor?
Example: “iPad vs Kindle” (1,300 searches per month)
If you’re a distributor or a reseller of any kind, comparing the products you hold may be a good opportunity to rank.
Are there a few popular trade shows in your industry? Maybe this year, they’re looking to pick one. Try writing a post about their options.
- “SXSW vs CES”
- “NY Comic Con vs SD Comic Con”
5. Publications & Blogs
6. People & Thought Leaders
Are there a few types of standards or protocols your industry runs on?
- “4G vs 5G” (320 searches per month)
- “Cloud vs on premise” (590 searches per month)
- “SaaS vs PaaS” (480 searches per month)
8. Categories, Frameworks, Ideas, & Concepts
Are there a handful of terms or categories of products that everyone in your target market uses?
Examples: “ERP vs CRM” (720 searches per month)
Here are a few other ideas that may work:
- “Inbound vs outbound marketing” (880 searches per month)
- “SEO vs PPC” (390 searches per month)
- “Six sigma vs lean” (390 searches per month)
- “KPIs vs metrics” (70 searches per month)
- “Outsource vs offshore” (70 searches per month)
Can you think of other tactics, frameworks, or concepts in your industry?
While you’re brainstorming ideas for your company, we’ll move onto the next phase: why it’s highly likely you’ll be able to rank for these comparison keywords you find.
Why Comparison Keywords Work In 2015
SEO gets more and more competitive all the time. Creating great content that Google is willing to show at the top of the list is hard, and everyone is trying to do it. Here’s why comparison keywords could turn out to be a successful part of your SEO strategy this year:
- Nearly all of these phrases will have low competition in Google results. Thousands of sales consultants will talk a lot about “sales tips,” but only a handful will likely compare Salesforce and Zoho.
- You likely won’t rank for one side of the comparison (“SaaS”) or the other (“PaaS”), but you likely will rank for the comparison (“SaaS vs PaaS”).
- By writing a blog post about one of these phrases, you’ll help your target audience analyze something in an interesting format.
- Google wants to see groups of keywords rather than just one keyword within a web page. By writing a comparison post, it’s likely that you’ll naturally be targeting two related phrases, and you’ll rank for a number of similar phrases.
- Google lets you find these opportunities easily. I’ll talk about how to do it next.
How To Find These Opportunities In Your Industry
I recently talked about an underutilized tool within Google’s Keyword Planner, which is one of the best keyword research tools. The tool gives you the ability to “multiply keyword lists to get new keywords.” You can put all of your ideas on both sides, and Google will cross reference each combination.
Here’s how to do it, step-by-step:
- Visit Keyword Planner.
- Click on “Multiply keyword lists to get new keywords.”
- Enter all of your brainstormed terms on one side with a “vs”* after each, and enter all the same terms on the other side without the “vs”.
- Click “Get search volume” rather than “Get forecasts.”
*A quick note on “vs”: It’s obviously grammatically correct to use a period after the “vs” (“vs.”), but people search without it. (We’re lazy.) Anyhow, I haven’t seen using a period or not impact search results. So I’d recommend doing your keyword research with the “vs” version, and writing your article with the “vs.” version.
Here’s an example of comparison keyword research:
Here are the opportunities Google found:
There you have it—a ton of good opportunities for blog articles.
If you’re thinking some of these search volumes look low, don’t get discouraged. I highly recommend targeting a phrase with just 50 searches per month. Since it has such low competition, it’s much more likely that you’ll rank for that phrase and a number of related ones. That increases your audience by a ton! We’ve targeted these keywords with low monthly searches, and have received a lot more visitors per month than Google thinks we will. I’ll explain...
3 Case Study Results From Comparison Keywords
1. We just recently wrote a post for Nectafy comparing HubSpot and Google Analytics, specifically about their reporting capabilities.
The phrase “Google Analytics vs HubSpot” only has 30 searches per month. But in just two months, we’ve received 500 organic visits and five leads directly from that article. That’s probably about 10 times greater than we should’ve received from that one keyword.
The reason it works so well is that people search in a number of different ways, like:
- “what’s the difference between hubspot and google analytics”
- “hubspot google analytics”
- “why is there a difference between visits in hubspot and analytics”
From that article, we pick up all of these.
On the whole, this article isn’t a home run, but it does mean we’re on pace for 3,000 new visits and 30 new leads each year just from this one blog post. If every post on your blog did that, I guarantee you’d be really excited.
2. We used this strategy for a client to find mixed results.
- With just one article, we’ve received 4,500 visits and 15 leads in 5 months.
- We rank in the top two results of Google for a few different phrases.
That’s all been a success. Unfortunately, these leads haven’t been of great quality. We may have picked competitors that are too distant for these particular comparisons. We’re learning.
3. We compared wireless protocols for a technical client.
This has been the best thing we’ve done yet, and it’s turned out a consistently high number of quality leads. Here are some numbers:
- We published five comparison posts between November 2014 and March 2015.
- These five posts have received a combined 15,000 visits.
- We’ve collected over 150 new leads directly from these articles.
Bonus: A case study that’s not ours—a website called G2Crowd.com.
At G2Crowd.com, users can post reviews for business software solutions. They automatically build pages that compare competing softwares, and rank for a ton of these “comparison keywords.” Compare any two softwares through Google and I can almost guarantee you’ll see G2Crowd at the top.
So, Get On It—Soon!
I honestly feel like comparison keywords are a little niche in SEO that isn't completely saturated. It can work for websites at any level of authority. If you’d like some advice, let’s connect on Twitter @henryoloughlin.